Monday, October 8, 2012

Re: Word usage

Posting to Autocat

On 04/10/2012 20:28, Daniel CannCasciato wrote:
<snip>
Hi All, just a quick take on this assertion, which is fairly widespread: James Weinheimer wrote:
Concerning the catalog, I still believe this is overlooking matters from the patron's point of view. The public searches by keywords and rarely understand subjects. ...
I'd amend that to, perhaps, the un-tutored patron searches only by keywords. My experience has been that the do indeed learn about the differences between indexes and do appreciate their strengths and limitations.
</snip>

I agree completely with what you write, and it is precisely the problem. The normal way to search today is with keywords. Many don't even have the real concept of "surname [comma] forename" any more. Look at the records in Worldcat where we can see names entered as "forename surname", or in Wikipedia where it is all "forename surname" e.g. Ben Johnson http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Johnson. Traditional browsing by subjects is even more difficult in the OPACs.

Still, it has happened to me that there were a very few times that someone finally understood the power of the headings. They learned to liked the headings and wanted them in Google. Headings are very complicated to use and as we all know, if you don't use a skill for awhile, you tend to forget it. I wonder if those people who understood back then still understand today or have they forgotten it all?

When the solution is to "tutor" the entire public instead of improving your tool, something is wrong. Let's improve the tool. It was built for another time, for another technology.

I have read, and heard, several suggestions that subject headings be abandoned because they just don't work today. These calls have been largely ignored and things have continued through inertia, but sooner or later, I am sure there will be a reckoning, and someone will have to provide a genuine answer. My own opinion is that subject headings (and the entire syndetic structure) provide something found nowhere else and could be invaluable to people, but the current methods of using them are long past dead. They have never been rethought in light of how people really search today: keyword. So much could be done to make the information in our records more genuinely useful to the public.

But it is clearly more important to type out cataloging abbreviations, get rid of O.T. and N.T. in Biblical uniform titles, make 245$b optional and get rid of the rule of three in favor of the rule of one. To be able to add $e relator codes to headings that will reduce access to the public, and so on and so on.

I couldn't resist the chance to take a dig against RDA.

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